Spring is a wild season here. I race around with twigs caught in my hair and dirt on my knees. There is so much to do! Weeds to manhandle- Trees, shrubs and Roses to prune- So many garden beds to cover with bark mulch- Soil amendments to add to all the gardens- Baby plants to tuck into their allotted bit of earth- And the unexpected joy of broken tools and equipment to manage.
I love all the tasks of spring. Well, except for tool problems.
As I race around from job to job, there is always some Flower friend that I am happy to see has returned to its spot. And I’m always so delighted by the various vistas across the beds and the unexpected marriages of plants. It’s one thing to imagine combinations of plants after looking at a million books, but when they blend themselves in harmonious ways well beyond anything I imagined or planned- that is bliss.
Someone commented that the gardens look a bit on the wild side, and I suppose that’s true. I weed everything and know what is planted where, but a lot of time I do let plants jump around and pop up in unexpected places. There is a lime yellow euphorbia that is allowed to pick any spot it wants. It looks so great in contrast to all the Purple Sensation Allium that every baby euphorbia that volunteers in the main perennial beds is cherished and coddled.
There are other plants, much as I love them, that I negotiate with, sometimes aggressively as in, I PULL THEM UP. Like Celandine. Celandine would pretty much like to dominate every bed, so I have to rein it in. I try to remember to apologize as I yank it up, but really! It would like to be the only plant on the property if it had its way! This year our ceasefire sees me leaving it under one big stretch of Lilacs but pulling it up everywhere else. This works for me, but perhaps not for Celandine.
Each spring as I get the gardens organized, there are losses to confront as well as plants that have multiplied. Our winters are so variable that I never know what is going to survive the cold. This last winter seems to have been hard on shrubs I thought were quite tough like all our Spireas. We also had a lovely old Plum tree bite the dust. There are also perennials that checked out. Sometimes they show up elsewhere as was the case with the enormous White Bleeding Heart. It vanished from its longtime spot only to have two other young White Bleeding Hearts appear on the opposite side of the Arbor Garden.
An old gardener friend once said to me that if she had a garden of all the plants she had lost, it would be quite a garden. I know what she meant! Now that I have been here 30 years, I can say the same myself. The longer one gardens, the bigger one’s garden of lost plants gets!
My garden of lost plants would have a lot of Lupine and Bearded Iris in it. I need to give it up on these two plants. I had a dozen Lupine in a lovely shade of pink last year, and this year I have one plant with one Flower stalk. That drift of dozens of yellow Lupine that I cradled protectively for many years? That too is gone with the wind.
And Bearded Iris! I just can’t resist them in the catalogs, but I should! They just don’t like it here- except for one fragrant pale violet variety that somehow has adjusted itself to the place and spreads like wildfire.
As far as all the gardens that get planted from scratch each year, I try to start a reasonable number of vegetables and Flowers for these gardens, but I always end up growing extras of everything. Then, I can’t bear to compost any of these babies, so once they are big enough to be planted in the gardens, I scramble to find the space for each little plant.
This year I had lots of annual Flowers for Emily’s wedding in addition to the usual Flower and vegetable friends. I searched the gardens high and low looking for spots for all these babies. There are now baby plants in places where I have never planted anything. If I found a square foot anywhere, it got planted!
It was quite a moment when Sarah Porter and I planted the last flat of plant babies. There had been so many flats in the greenhouse, hoop house, cold frames and on every flat surface in the office and house. It seemed like we would never get them all in. But thanks to Sarah as well as Elizabeth, Molly Sanders and EJ, we did.
The last of the annuals went in the Venus Garden. The design this year is a Star of David composed of triangles of Zinnias with pom poms of white Flowers at the tips and a ring of Heliotrope and Mehera Marigolds at the center. Each triangle is a different color of Zinnias. It was refreshingly simple garden to plant compared with many Venus Gardens and looks very lovely, even now with just the baby plants in this mandala.
Now we turn our attention to keeping everything watered and weeded. It’s always an adventure to see what sort of summer we are going to have and which Flowers will particularly flourish. Lets hope they will look good in bridal bouquets!